Dealing With Writing Insecurity

This topic has been weighing on me for a while now. I try to keep my posts relatively upbeat – even when I’m wrangling with my story — but now that I’ve finished my latest draft, I finally have the energy to tackle this subject.

So, so, so… I noticed while I was working on my latest draft that I’ve been disengaging with the writing and reading communities. It didn’t just happen recently either. It’s been happening since I embarked on writing my novel, and I just wasn’t overtly aware of my reactions until now. I find it such an counter-intuitive behaviour, considering the number of times I complained about how isolating writing is.

At first, I didn’t even think there was a problem. After all, I have this WordPress blog and a Tumblr account where I give writing updates. I have friends to whom I regularly talk about my novel, and who share their writing with me too. And whenever I see writeblrs on Tumblr, I get a very strong urge to reblog their posts or engage in their writing memes. Whenever I hear about writing groups, I get a spark of excitement.

But at the end of the day, I don’t introduce myself to any of the writeblrs I find. I never join a writing group, even the ones highly recommended by trusted friends. It seemed like I was only excited about joining these groups in theory, but not in practice.

Then I realized the difference between writing on my blogs and mingling in a community. In communities, I can’t just talk about me and my WIP. I actually have to be proactive with other participants, and hear about them and their work. In a writing community, I am exposed to the works and efforts of so many other people. And that’s when my brain starts its awful chatter.

There’s this unavoidable voice in my head that compares my work to theirs. If I see someone writing something very different from my story, my brain goes, “Oh look, their idea is so much better. It’s so much more current and marketable.” If I see someone writing something similar to mine, my brain goes, “Oh boy, there’s only one space in the market for that kind of idea, and you have no chance of filling that spot.” If there’s someone who’s ahead in the writing process, I’d think, “Wow, I’m so lazy. I can’t believe I’m only still in the drafting stages. This person is 10 years younger than me, and they already have 2 books out!” And if there’s someone who’s still in the brainstorming stage, I feel threatened by their potential.

It’s gotten to a point where sometimes I’m even too uncomfortable to go on Goodreads. When I see all new releases, my brain scolds me that I should have finished my story by now. That I’m either not writing about the same trends as these books do, or that I’m writing something completely cliche. I don’t know how my brain manages to think that at the same time, but there you go.

I just don’t know why I feel like this. Because objectively speaking, I shouldn’t be comparing myself to them, right? We’ve all heard those proverbs and sayings and Pinterest-worthy slogans about comparisons, about minding our own business, about just doing our own thing.

And I know that. And my reaction is to hit the back-button on those blogs, to turn away from those writing groups, to cancel meet-ups, to ignore the new releases, and just “work on my own thing.”

But that leaves me exactly where I’ve always been: writing by myself in a journey that is mostly solitary. And sometimes I just wonder if there will ever be a way for me to meaningfully engage with the writing and reading communities again without secretly feeling bad about myself.

Finished Draft 6!

I’m only 5 days belated from my goal of finishing this draft by the end of 2019, and I don’t think that’s bad at all! I even went from 105K words to 93K words, so I am quite proud of myself.

What’s next? I’ll just polish it up a bit, then off it goes to a copyeditor. After that, we’ll see, but I’m both excited and relieved that I’m finally wrapping up this project.

Wrapping Up 2019

I didn’t plan to write one of these posts, but as I sat in front of my computer this morning and thought about working on the current draft of my novel, my procrastinating brain told me to write a blog post instead. And so, here I am.

Highlights of 2019

  • Visiting the Philippines in January: My family and I rarely visit the Philippines. In the 18 years since we’ve immigrated to Canada, we’ve only gone back twice, this 2019 trip included, so I always consider it a Big Deal when I get the opportunity to go back.
  • Passing my G Driving Exam: This August, after failing once, I have finally passed the last stage of my driving, and I am now fully licensed! I don’t have to think about driving classes anymore. I don’t have to worry about exams anymore. I can finally put it behind me.
  • More stable environment at work: 2018 was a stressful time at my job, because my team dwindled down to 2 people. There was a lot of restructuring and many senior engineers left. This year, although we have not replaced the members we’ve lost, I have learned to manage the things that caused me stress last year.
  • Finishing 2 drafts of my story: This year, I finished drafts 4 and 5 of my WIP, and I received valuable feedback from beta readers, and even an editor. I feel like the story at its current state is so much more polished.

There might only be 4 things on the list, but it’s also important for me to acknowledge that I have a lot of blessings in my life. When I go to bed each night and pray, no matter how bad my day is, I try to remember that I’m one of the luckiest people on earth. I try to be grateful for the simplest things. I live in a decent home, I have three meals a day, I have a good and steady job, I am financially comfortable. Not many people have all of those.

Read More »

Teetering between MG and YA

Last weekend, I surprised myself by reaching the 24th chapter of my sixth draft. It seems like I might just be able to finish this draft before the new year. That was my initial intention, but as I slowly lost steam around the half-way point, I became resigned to the possibility that I will finish much later. I’m still thinking of giving myself some slack, because the holidays are a busy time of the year, and I don’t know what might come up and derail me.

But yes, I’m on chapter 24, out of 31 predicted chapters. Now that I’m nearing the end of this draft, I’m once again thinking about where in the MG/YA spectrum my story really falls.

Initially, I set out to write The Malicious Wind with an MG audience in mind. In particular, I thought of the 9-10 year-old me who would have loved an adventure story with flashy magic and mythological creatures inspired by my country of origin.

Granted, in the process of writing the story, of digging into the complications of the world, and of sharpening the character arcs, I might have pushed the age-level up unintentionally. The action scenes got more risky, and identity became the major theme of the novel.

I still tried my best to keep violence to a minimum. And even though my world is made up of multiple regions that have complex relationships with each other, these complications manifest only as 2-option choices for my protagonists (ie. “Do I team up with so-and-so, or not?”). In other words, I’m not really writing Megan Whalen Turner level of political machinations.

I have been reading a few articles, blog posts, and have even asked a couple of published authors about what really differentiates MG and YA. Here are some of the major differences I got from their answers:

MG

  • focuses on the protagonist’s role in their family and their community
  • the conflict is an “intruder” in their normal world, and its resolution returns the world to normal
  • complex issues are handled obliquely, with humour, or with side-characters experiencing them

YA

  • focuses on the protagonist’s relationships outside of family and community
  • the conflict is something inherent in their world, and its resolution forces the world to change
  • complex issues are tackled head-on by the protagonist, with insight into how they feel about it

So, as you can see, it’s a little hard for me to locate my story given these criteria. Both my protagonists have been separated from their family/found-family, and have the intention of reuniting with them at the end of the story. Both of them are unsure about their place in their community, but wants to belong in said community. The Malicious Wind is an intruder in their normal world and needs to be defeated, but in order to do that, they also need to defeat the power-hungry king. The only criteria that my story fulfills completely is that complex issues are faced by the protagonists head-on, and that pretty much makes it YA.

The thing is… I’m very reluctant to label my novel as YA. As someone who likes to read YA, I’m aware of current YA trends, and I can’t help but feel that my story just wouldn’t fit. It doesn’t have any romance in it, it’s not dark or gritty, and its narrative is pretty straightforward. I know there are other YA books that don’t have romance, or aren’t dark and gritty, or have simple plots. There are many YA books that are for younger teens, instead of the older audience being targeted by recent trends. But perhaps I’ve just seen too many Goodreads reviews of some amazing MG or lower YA books accidentally picked up by readers expecting an older YA novel, and were consequently given low ratings because the quality of writing is for younger readers.

I guess I just feel that the MG space, with its wide range of adventures and oftentimes whimsical atmosphere, would be a better home to my story. I don’t know if I’m just having a hard time relinquishing my original vision of this novel, and maybe after 6 revisions, the novel has a different vibe now. Maybe it will end up being more appreciated by older readers.

At the end of the day, I just don’t want to mislead anybody. I don’t want readers being bored because there’s not enough angst; or having nightmares because there are stabbings. I want them to try my story and feel at home in it.

Tuesday Tunes: Mree

For today’s Tuesday Tunes, I want to share an American indie artist that I’ve been following for years: Mree!

Mree describes her genre as “folktronica” or “dream folk.” Her songs have a lot of ambiance, deep lyrics, and amazing harmonies. She produces all of her songs. I remember listening to her music while writing very introspective fanfiction, hehe.

Here are some of my favourites from her.

Read More »

My Favourite Books/Series

I often compare the books I read to the ones I enjoyed before, so I figured I would compile my favourite books here as a reference.

It was difficult for me to choose my “favourite” books, because we tend to judge how much we like a book by how many times we’ve read it. Unfortunately I’m not a big re-reader. While there are a few books I’ve read multiple times, there others I’ve only read once that still gave me a phenomenal reading experience. I included those ones in my list as well.

None of these are in order, by the way. (Well, with the exception of the first one! That one really is my favourite book of all time!)

Read More »

No NaNoWriMo & An Early Look At My 2020 Plans

Since I started doing NaNoWriMo in 2016, I have participated in every single WriMo challenge, including the camps in April and July, up until last November. I got to the point in my novel where I didn’t find the fast-paced, get-your-words-down-at-all-cost objective of NaNoWriMo helpful anymore.

That’s still true this time around, so I’m a little sad to say that I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo again this year. Even though my participation spanned less than two years, it still feels odd not to be gearing up for it. I remember how I used to prepare all of my notes and outlines just in time for the challenges, and studiously keeping up with my word counts when it was time to crunch them. In some ways, even though they were exhausting, I miss those months. It gave me something to focus on outside of work, and my consistent progress made me feel very productive.

Now I’m working on my sixth draft of The Malicious Wind. I’ve submitted the previous draft to an editor, and the revisions I need to make are highly targeted to certain areas. So the 50,000 word goal just doesn’t make sense. I started writing draft 6 halfway through October, and I’m only on chapter 6. That means I’ve taken an average of 3 days to edit a single chapter. (For reference, each chapter is below 3K words, so if I were doing NaNoWriMo, I would already be very much behind.)

I’m hoping to finish draft 6 by the end of this year. Early next year, I will submit it for copy-editing, and perhaps another round of beta-reading. Once I get feedback from those, I will write the final draft.

Yup, that’s it. I’ve decided that I will stop after that.

A part of me feels like perhaps I should work on it more, especially because this is my first original novel I intend to share with the world. But another part of me feels like I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.

When I was still in school, I had a (very wise) friend who told me of a story or proverb about two novice potters. One of them spent an entire month making one pot, trying to get it to be as beautiful as he could. The other one spent one day each month making a different pot, with improvements on the one he made the previous day. In the end, on that final day, both their pots were just as beautiful as each other’s.

I mean, okay, perhaps this story cannot be applied to everything. Perhaps not even writing a novel. But I do feel that because I’ve been working on The Malicious Wind for close to four years, I have squeezed as much learning experience as I have from this novel. Maybe it’s time to move on to the next, to hone my craft on a different project. Goodness knows I have so many ideas lined up. I will try not to worry if TWM is not the best story out there. First novels rarely are.

I’m still not sure how I will publish this novel. At this point, I’m really just thinking of posting it on Wattpad, or building my own site to house it. It would be nice to eventually monetize my writing, but my goal right now is to just share it with people. Which is hard, because I have very little marketing skills. And lately, I’ve even been lamenting my art skills too, which I’m increasingly afraid aren’t enough to attract people to my work. (I’ve just seen a lot of poorly designed covers recently, and I just thought, “There are authors out there who think these are good covers. What if the design and artwork I feel are good actually…aren’t?”) So I’ve just been experiencing a lot of self-doubt. Even if I’m taking an unusual publication route, I do want my story to appear professional.

Anina

Today I want to talk about one of my protagonists, Anina.

It’s still a little strange to sit down and decide, “Yes, it’s time to talk about a character,” because part of me feels like it’s still premature. Although my story had already gone through multiple beta readers, a developmental edit, and a line edit, sometimes I still feel like I’m at that earlier stage where at any moment, my story can crumble to pieces, and I’d have to make yet another major revision.

However, I do think that it’s time to open up a little more about my story. Many of you have been with me since the inception of this blog, and I have been posting about my writing process since late 2016. Since then, I have ranted about the woes of writing, blogged about NaNoWriMo challenges, and shared all the artwork I made related to this novel.

Yet in all that time, I’ve never really talked about the components of my story in fair detail. I’ve dropped character names, but who are they really? Why should you care about them? Why do I feel like spending years and years crafting their story? What kind of world do they live in?

So I’m hoping that in this new series of posts, I can share with you more information about the different pieces of my story and what inspired them.


Anina is a sixteen-year-old girl who is looking for a way to gain magic. She has been searching for a few years, but nobody had been able to answer her. One day she hears of a reclusive mage up in the mountains who dabbles in illegal magic. Hoping that this person can help her, Anina decides to seek her.

Unfortunately for Anina, when she arrives at the Hermit Mage’s house, the mage herself is nowhere in sight. Even worse, she finds the king’s warriors trying to arrest the mage’s son, Sano. Without meaning to, Anina gets caught up in the conflict, and ends up fleeing the scene as an accomplice of a fugitive.

Read More »